Rosemary Shrager and Tim Wonnacott visit Penrhyn Castle in Bangor, North Wales, where Victoria and Albert stayed in 1859 for three days.
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Just what do you have to do when a queen decides she's going to pop in to see you?
Not just any old queen.
Like a pair of obsessed Victoria groupies, we're pursuing her around
the country to the posh pads she visited.
We're delving into her personal diaries to reveal what happened behind closed doors.
Today, a visit Queen Victoria made when she had been on the throne for 22 years.
We have come to the northern most tip of North Wales
to visit the magnificent and stately and enormous, Penrhyn Castle.
And as someone who's spent a lifetime getting excited
by antiques, I'll be exploring
the curiosities of the castle that would've surprised Victoria.
These things are gobsmackingly desirable
-to the really rich of this period.
-As a chef who's passionate about all sorts of food,
I'll be downstairs in the kitchen, rediscovering an amazing 19th- Century recipe made for Victoria.
-We have the juices and the meat...
-And giving Tim a right royal treat.
-Rosemary, you HAVE been busy, darling.
This doesn't look very Victorian.
Do you know something, you're absolutely right. It looks medieval.
But the style is called neo-Norman
and it was actually constructed in the early 19th century.
A pure fantasy.
It was built entirely to impress
and was completed just before Victoria came on the throne in 1837.
Victoria visited with hubby, Albert and four of their children and as was the way during these
royal outings, the kids, if not exactly palmed off on her staff,
were very much seen, but not heard.
They were on their way back from Scotland
and had made this massive detour all the way to North Wales
as part of a PR exercise, to improve Victoria's popularity
in the less populated regions.
And you know, they were thrilled to have her.
Bangor came out in droves, thousands of people.
They had illuminations and flags.
You know Queen Victoria said in her diaries, it reminded her of arriving in Paris.
But not so posh for me. I'm off to the servants' entrance.
And for me, it's a medieval gateway.
Victoria had been to Penrhyn before, in 1832,
when she was 13 and the place wasn't quite finished.
But for Albert, this was the first time, a real eye opener,
and because he was particularly interested in design and technology, he'd have been intrigued.
Albert might have chuckled as he passed under this phoney medieval gateway.
Like a toy castle, Penrhyn's turrets and arrow slits
are more fun and games than serious defence devices.
As Queen Victoria and Albert arrived with the kids in tow,
they were met by their hosts, Lord and Lady Pennant.
And it's here that Victoria would have descended from her carriage
and gone through the front door of the castle.
But I wonder whether she had any opportunity to examine in detail the door itself.
Because it's a tour de force of shammery.
But my favourite bit has to be the door knob.
Look at this, here we've got a perfect circle
that fits into another circle
but looks as if it's made of bronze, but actually it too is made of oak.
Do these two pieces articulate at all? Does the bottom bit swing out?
Not a bit of it. It's fixed.
It's simply there for show.
It's sham. And for me,
it sums up the sham nature of this Norman, or not so Norman, castle.
This place is all about show and who better to show off to than Her Maj.
Queen Victoria was led into this, the grand hall,
a kind of cathedral-like space.
On that evening, it was filled with local dignitaries,
all the local aristocrats, the Lord Lieutenant and the like.
The Pennants were well connected and filthy rich.
It was perhaps this clout that secured the visit.
A lot of their cash went on mod cons. In fact, Penrhyn Castle was renowned for its technical gizmos.
Thomas Hopper, the architect, hadn't forgotten creature comforts,
because this, even in the 1830s,
is an example of warm air central heating.
This castle, on the ground floor, has a series of ducts and grills like that,
that enable the hot air to come in and warm the guests. Wonderful!
While Victoria was having her tootsies warmed in the hallway, her staff would have been lugging
the row of baggage over to the other side of the castle.
This servants'service area is enormous!
You've got the housekeeper's tower there.
Then you have the footman's tower sneaked over the other side.
The footmen had their own tower. Then you have an ice tower here.
There was a soup kitchen, a bakery and a laundry.
It was all here.
Downstairs, the heat was on to rustle up a royal feast.
Helping me to rediscover the story of Victorian cooking
is historical food expert, Ivan Day.
Today, we're cooking an amazing, elaborate feast of a dish.
It was created by one of Victoria's own chefs
for grand occasions like this royal visit.
A spectacular recipe for spit roast beef.
What a magnificent piece of fillet.
This is called a fillet of beef a la Provencale.
Devised by Francatelli, who was Victoria's chef in 1841.
He only stayed for a year. He instructs us to lard the fillet.
Then we're going to marinade it for about an hour.
We're then going to put on a spit and roast it in front of the fire.
Oh... And what's in the marinade?
The marinade has got olive oil,
carrots and onion and a little bit of garlic.
That's the Mediterranean Provencale element.
It doesn't sound very British, Provencale.
Garlic wasn't used very much at all in English Victorian cooking.
What these great houses liked was an Anglo-French style of cookery.
You're larding it. That's something we wouldn't do today.
It's going onto a spit in front of a roaring fire.
It would dry the meat out very, very rapidly.
-You're putting the fat in?
-Have you done this before?
-I've larded, yes.
-Have you done it this way?
-Not using this thing, no.
I have a plate with strips of bacon fat with some ice and salt underneath,
which makes it like a miniature freezer.
They haven't got a freezer in a kitchen like this.
So you make a miniature one. It keeps it nice and firm.
What a great little tip! That's what I'm after. Show me this first.
Then I'll do it myself.
First of all, I've got two sets here of Victorian larding pins.
This is the original holder which every cook had.
These are from the period.
As they prepared this dish, the kitchen team would
have been juggling to cook eight other courses - yes, eight -
to be served to the Queen.
As well as fish, other roasts, like mutton and game birds,
would have taken their turns with our beef.
This is what's called a releve. It's the course
-you have after the fish.
you've done it before!
It's the dish that's served after the fish.
The idea was to put
as much abundance on the table to honour your royal guest.
The ironic thing was Victoria actually liked plain food.
They would bring wonderful dishes and she might just say, "Can I've some rice pudding, please?"
And they would have to give it to her! But they would!
That would be the thing, rice pudding.
While the kitchen staff were beavering away downstairs...
..upstairs the Queen would have been enjoying a charm offensive from her
hosts, the Pennants, as they showed off the grandeur of their house.
Having finished meeting all those dignitaries, Queen Victoria was
ushered into this space, the Penrhyn library,
and quite appropriately, too. Because it's a most impressive area.
And it has the added advantage of being practically unchanged
from the moment that Victoria visited.
Just look at this lovely little reading room, just off the library,
that's circular and built into one of the castle turrets.
Who knows, maybe Queen Victoria read a little book in here herself?
One thing that would have struck Victoria,
walking through the library, is the amount of slate on show.
Not surprising, since the Pennants made their fortune
quarrying the stuff up the road, and one particular object
definitely would have got Albert's attention.
You've got it! It's the billiard table.
This one was ordered in 1844 for Colonel Douglas Pennant,
and what's unusual about it
is that it's made of solid slate,
slate, mined here.
These things are absolutely gobsmackingly desirable
to the really rich of this period. The Duke of Wellington had one.
Even Victoria and Albert had one in their home
at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight.
While Albert was potting balls upstairs, downstairs, the kitchen staff were cooking dinner.
I've added fat to the beef ready for cooking
and now it's time to add some spice.
For this dish we're using a popular Victorian blend
of black, white and red peppers.
Oh! On the tongue the spice coming through, fantastic.
We've got to plonk it in here.
So, we're going to very gently give this a Thai massage.
You don't want to remove the lardons away.
Yeah, we're going to massage the onions and garlic in.
It'll marinade for a very short time.
So the garlic, even the carrot flavour gets transmitted
into the surface of the meat.
-It doesn't go into the heart of it. That's physically impossible.
We just rub it all in.
What I'd like you to do is get some of the pepper and give it a really good sprinkle...
-..while I massage the pepper in as well.
An even sprinkling, be quite generous with it.
I'll rub that in between the larding.
-So it's a peppered steak?
-It's a wonderfully peppered steak,
but this is very, very sophisticated food in the 19th century.
This is something new.
-Only for places like this.
Ordinary people wouldn't eat this.
But we have to remember that ordinary people are preparing it.
How much would this cost in the Victorian days?
Well, it would probably cost about...
-That's about £100 in today's money.
Think about it, it's not changed.
Money hasn't changed in terms of that piece of meat.
This has been revered for centuries though, this particular cut, as being the most tender piece of the animal.
Now, what's going to happen now?
We'll let it rest for about half an hour.
Then I'm going to spit it and we'll get it in front of the fire.
Let's hope HRH got a chance to put her feet up in the library, because
the next stage of Lord Pennant's tour of the castle involved a bit of a workout, the grand staircase.
Grand it certainly is.
It's just the sort of staircase you can imagine a queen ascending.
And eventually, it does lead to the royal bedrooms.
If you don't mind walking for another half a mile or so.
Well, it turns out Victoria did rather mind that half-mile hike to bed.
And to avoid it, she broke all protocol.
Adela, the daughter of the household,
was only one when the Queen came to stay.
She later published for the family an account of her visit.
And according to the story, Victoria liked to take a shortcut
to her suite of rooms using the spiral staircase.
This was the servants' staircase.
But you must remember, there was no electricity in those days
and the family hired a lamp man.
They bought him specially from London to light up the Queen's way.
But Adela tells us that the man deserted his duties and she wrote,
"When my mother took the Queen to her room,
"she found the stairs in complete darkness.
"My mother begged the Queen to wait while she ran upstairs for a light.
"But on returning to the head of the steps, she found the Queen
"had laughingly groped her way up behind her in the dark."
Well, imagine, Queen Victoria stumbling up these steps,
without even a candle, wearing the wide, long dresses.
She was laughing. She wasn't even upset!
But whichever staircase she used, waiting for her in the bedroom was
another surprise so typical of Penrhyn's eccentricities.
It's made of solid slate.
It looks like just like the grey stuff down in the library.
I think probably made by a Welsh craftsperson
more accustomed to making gravestones.
Just look at the shape and form of that foot board.
But did the Queen actually sleep in it?
Well, there's some controversy here. Some say she did.
Some say she thought it was ghoulish and ordered another bed.
What do I think, personally?
Well, let's sleep on it!
Wherever she ended up sleeping, if Victoria needed anything during the night,
all she had to do was ring for it,
as the upstairs rooms were all linked to the servants' quarters by these bell pulls.
How's that for Victorian room service?
But there's one cord that no servant wanted to hear, the call of nature.
Clearing out the dreaded chamber pots, yuck!
But here at Penrhyn, not everyone had to stoop that low.
I've snuck upstairs to see another one of the castle's prized mod cons
that would've thrilled the guests and the staff alike.
Here's an invention that would've been a great relief to the servants,
a flushing loo!
Now, Penrhyn was one of the first grand houses
to actually incorporate it at the beginning of their construction.
We know that Prince Albert had an interest in technology, and
he would've been fascinated by this, and he actually probably sat on it.
While Albert was otherwise engaged upstairs, downstairs the beef is roasting on the spit.
It makes my mouth water just looking at it!
Most people, when they think of spit cookery, think of campfire cookery, but this is on a different level.
It's really sophisticated, very flexible cookery.
Timing is absolutely important so that you don't overdo it.
But also I see it almost while you're describing, it's actually very like a barbecue!
-This is a high-end barbecue.
-This is a high-end barbecue, but that's it.
The spit or attishry was powered by a smoke jack rotated by heated air rising in the chimney.
It was a skilled job to make sure the joint was cooked at the correct distance from the fire,
and for the right amount of time, while continually basting the meat in its own fat.
A lot of visitors of these old kitchens, they see these extraordinary spits, which are large,
and they think, "They must've roasted a whole pig or an ox on it," but that's not the case because
a Victorian meal had lots of roast meats at different intervals in the meal,
so what that's for is for cooking lots of different types of meat
rather than one great big, massive ox. And of course, it's all about control.
You've always got one cook in charge of that who's keeping his or her eye on it. It tended to be a male.
It was barbecue man again in the Victorian incarnation of the sense,
but he knows to a turn exactly when it's cooked.
So he is now called the spit cook?
-The rotisserie cook.
-The rotisserie cook!
In the 19th century, yes. They took the French term for it.
-So why is there a screen there?
-Well, it's hot work. It looks like there's a wardrobe plonked in the
middle of the kitchen, but it's the most essential piece of equipment.
-That protects all of us from the heat.
It reflects the heat back into the fire because it's coated with a tin
interior, and you can also use it for warming up your plates.
-This is original?
-Oh, yes. Yeah. It was called a closet or a screen.
Every kitchen had one.
So we've got our meat, but what about the veg?
-To go with the beef, we're going to make stuffed tomatoes.
-We'll finish them under the fire.
-So they had the juices of the meat dripping over them.
-How delicious is that!
Which is something we've forgotten all about, cooking under the joint.
But people don't want to eat fat any more and that's where all the flavour is.
That's what it's all about, isn't it? Time to fry up the stuffing.
I love this combination of bacon, onion and thyme, and garlic.
-Have you got some garlic there?
-Remember, this is a la provencale.
A la provencale. And so...
And this wonderful ham, which is the dry English ham that you would
-get from the smoking loft here in the kitchen.
-It's like a serrano.
It's superb. It is English, you see.
-We knew how to make this stuff hundreds of years ago.
-Oh, that's delicious!
So you've got ham here from the bacon loft.
Bacon also made here on the estate.
Herbs from the herb garden.
Mushrooms, field gathered.
-So the whole kitchen is completely self-sufficient.
-No, absolutely wonderful.
While the meat cooks away on the spit, I'll leave Ivan to stuff
the tomatoes, so I can try and find some of the other key rooms in the labyrinth below the stairs.
After a whirlwind welcome, the Queen must have slept like a baby.
She woke the next morning to this magnificent view from her window,
which, she wrote, "reminded her of the Highlands."
On Queen Victoria's first morning here
in 1859, she went for a walk with her children
despite the inclement weather.
I bet it was blowy, like today. Albert, on the other hand,
shoved off to the quarry, the source of so much of that Pennant wealth.
Victoria didn't bother going this time because she'd already seen it during her earlier trip in 1832.
This painting was done after that visit, and she's meant to be one of the figures in there somewhere.
Was she secretly into abseiling?
Victoria described her experiences here outside in her diary.
She writes, "Walked out after breakfast
"with the children in the grounds, visiting the fine flower and kitchen gardens.
"But felt SO tired.
"The atmosphere SO thick, dull and heavy,
"so different than Balmoral, that I did not go far."
She did, however, leave her mark by planting a giant redwood tree,
which we can see just there.
Victoria planted trees like they were going out of fashion.
But the Pennants made quite sure this one was a bit special.
This giant redwood would have been imported from America.
They grow to over 100 metres tall and can live for over 3,000 years,
so as far as a lasting legacy of the royal visit goes,
it doesn't get much better than this.
Downstairs, while Ivan's placing the stuffed tomatoes under the spit so they become
infused by the juices dripping off the beef, I'm off exploring.
It's clear that the kitchen is one of the most important rooms
downstairs, but a whole suite of rooms played a huge part in feeding them upstairs.
But it's the pastry room I've had my eye on all day, and
it's not these delicious Victorian cakes that have taken my fancy.
It's something that might appear far more mundane.
One of the most exciting things here is actually a bread roll.
Now this bread roll was one of the original bread rolls
that was baked for Queen Victoria on her three-day visit here to Penrhyn.
I have to be very careful because if it breaks, I will be in a lot of trouble.
I'm going to leave this right where it is.
I don't want Ivan making croutons out of this Victorian treasure.
Back in the kitchen, we're now ready for the final stage in preparing
today's wonderful royal dish, beef provencale.
The beef has cooked for two hours and it's ready to dress.
We've got to get it off the spit.
The succulent beef is removed from the hot spit,
but that's not enough for Queen Victoria.
The garnish is even more amazing.
And not a lettuce leaf in sight!
-We're going to use these wonderful skewers...
..which are called Hatherly skewers.
-Yes. And we will probably put one in the middle
that doesn't have anything on it, so we'll put that one in like that.
OK. And what we mean to do is to put a truffle...
-Right, shall I put one?
You have a smell of those. They're absolutely amazing.
-OK. And then one of the smaller crayfish.
Now this is quite difficult.
You've got to get it through the middle of its back like that. OK?
Like so. Now push it right down so it's on top.
-Then you want a gherkin.
A gherkin, right. So we'll do this, OK.
And then finally the mushroom.
This may all seem a bit OTT, but in Victorian times,
food was a way to prove your status,
so the garnish was almost as important as the beef itself.
-OK, got it.
-That's it. OK.
That looks magnificent!
All we've got to do is surround it with the tomatoes and then it's ready for the dining room.
The tomatoes have been stuffed and are toasted under this special spade
known as a salamander, and finely cooked through on the gratin dish.
It's almost architecture, in a way, isn't it, just making sure it's well-balanced.
-Yeah, I mean, this is not camp fire cookery, is it?
-It certainly is not.
We're on a completely different level here. This is really...
Shall we put the sauce on?
-I'm just going to glaze this.
-Yes, a bit of your meat glaze.
This looks incredible.
But imagine the pressure creating a dish like this, especially if Queen Victoria was waiting upstairs.
It's bad enough that it's Tim!
Well, that is beautiful and I think Tim is going to love this.
It had been a long old day for Victoria, and to finish it off,
she had a dinner party to get through, staged in this room.
The Queen described it as, "very handsome with everything well done,"
and she says, "the dinner was excellent."
Rosemary! You HAVE been busy, darling.
Now, this is a wonderful fillet of beef a la provencale.
-And why do you think it's called "provencale"?
-Because it comes from the country.
Because there's a bit of garlic.
-Ah, is that what it is?
-That's what it is.
I can't tell Tim this, but I've already sneaked a taste before serving him and it is amazing.
I can tell you, spit-roasting is as far away from a barbie as you can imagine.
Now this is a typical dish that actually Queen Victoria
might have eaten, but it was only part of a whole host of dishes she would have got through.
Actually, I feel a bit of a dribble coming on because
-that looks really good.
-I'm going to give you that.
-Can I have a tomato, too?
They're stuffed with mushrooms, onions, garlic, thyme.
Garlic? Oh, good. I'm glad I'm sleeping with myself tonight.
Now, here we go, look. I'm going to have a morsel of this delicious
provencale beef that you have slaved away at. Rosemary, you are an angel.
Now, one, two, three, down the cakehole.
And that is cooked on the spit
and it's larded to give it moisture. It's absolutely delicious.
I mean, this is sophisticated food, and to think they had this sort of
food then, to me, this is top quality restaurant food.
It certainly is. And do you know how tall Victoria was?
-No, how tall was she?
-About 5ft 2.
-And do you know how wide she was?
48 inches around her middle and about 53 inches tall.
-Oh, well, then there's hope!
So, Rosemary, after a splendid dinner like this, there would be
a suitable entertainment from the quarry men's choir.
Choral singing was hugely popular in Wales during Victoria's reign.
And here a choir, assembled and conducted by one of the quarry workers, performed for the Queen.
And among those here today
are some of the descendants that sang with that very choir.
Do you know, Rosemary, Queen Victoria really loved the quarry men
and she wrote in her diary, "they have such fine voice.
"They sing in such fine tune."
Just like our Penrhyn Male Voice Choir here.
Absolutely right. And what more fitting way for us to conclude
our visit to Penrhyn Castle.
Next time, we catch up with Victoria at Floors Castle in Scotland, and everything has changed.
The Queen was in mourning after the death of her beloved Albert, and it
was the first time in six years she had left home on an official duty.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
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Antiques expert Tim Wonnacott and chef Rosemary Shrager travel in the footsteps of Queen Victoria, Britain's longest reigning monarch, looking at the houses, castles and stately homes she visited throughout her life. Using her own diaries and other first-hand accounts, they discover what happened during the visits.
Victoria and Albert visited Penrhyn Castle in Bangor, North Wales, in 1859 for three days. Victoria had been on the throne for 22 years at the time. The castle had only been completed in 1845, just 14 years before the queen's visit, and the whole place is built in a sham medieval style.
Historical food expert and chef Ivan Day helps Rosemary recreate an amazing feast: spit roast beef with an elaborate garnish of truffles and crayfish. It was created by one of Victoria's own chefs for grand occasions like this royal visit. In the process, Ivan and Rosemary rediscover the intricate art of spit roasting: a job so skilled that one person, the rotisserie chef, would have been focused on it.
Tim tells the story of how her majesty shunned the grand staircase to take her up to her bed and favoured the smaller, and much more convenient, spiral staircase used by the servants. She even used it in total darkness when the lamplighter they'd hired to light her way failed to turn up. It's reported that she groped her way up the stairs to her bedroom, laughing heartily. Tim discovers that the royal bed may not have been that comfortable when she got there: it was made from slate from the host family's quarry. Victoria comments in her diary how she was entertained by a male voice choir formed from the local quarrymen - and Tim and Rosemary are entertained by a choir containing some of the descendants of that choir.